Appreciative Inquiry

What is Appreciative Inquiry?

Appreciative inquiry is a strengths-based approach to change that has been used successfully in small and large change projects with hundreds of organizations worldwide. It is based on the simple idea that organizations move in the direction of what they ask questions about. For example, when groups study human problems and conflicts, they often find that both the number and severity of these problems grow.

In the same way, when groups study high human ideals and achievements, such as peak experiences, best practices, and noble accomplishments, these phenomena, too, tend to flourish. Thus, appreciative inquiry distinguishes itself from other change methodologies by deliberately asking positive questions to ignite constructive dialogue and inspired action within organizations.

How to Use Appreciative Inquiry


With permission of the author, adapted from The Appreciative Inquiry Summit. James D. Ludema, Diana Whitney, Bernard J. Mohr, & Thomas J. Griffin. 2003

As a method of organizational intervention, appreciative inquiry differs from traditional problem-solving approaches. The basic assumption of problem-solving methodologies is that people and organizations are fundamentally “broken” and need to be fixed. The process usually involves:

  • identifying the key problems
  • analyzing the root causes
  • searching for possible solutions
  • developing an action plan

In contrast, the underlying assumption of appreciative inquiry is that people and organizations are by nature full of assets, capabilities, resources, and strengths that are just waiting to be located, affirmed, stretched, and encouraged. The steps include:

  • discovering and valuing
  • envisioning
  • design through dialogue
  • co-constructing the future

In other words, the appreciative inquiry 4-D model includes discovery, dream, design, delivery.